Preserving Context in Digital Writing: Creating Bi-Directional Linkages Between Products


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 03, 2023

4 min read


Preserving Context in Digital Writing: Creating Bi-Directional Linkages Between Products

In the realm of digital writing, the goal is often to establish connections and linkages between various products. These products can include original source materials, stand-alone notes, and documents intended for sharing. The aim is to create sources that hold value over time, not just for a single project. To achieve this, many writers make use of digital tools and information sources.

One concept that has proven useful in understanding and describing this workflow is that of context. The highlights and notes made during the writing process exist within the context of the original sources. This means that, at a later point in time, the links associated with these smart notes can be used to return to the original document and the specific location within it that the note refers to. The beauty of a smart note is that it is an idea that stands on its own and can be understood without necessarily referencing the entire document.

As the writing process progresses, there is a shift in reliance on the context of the previous source. Instead, there is a greater focus on the writer's interpretation and speculation. Accumulating annotated PDFs and other products over time can be a valuable investment, which is why using a cloud storage service like iCloud provides a measure of security for the generated products.

There are several digital tools available for highlighting and annotating texts, such as Zotero and Highlights. While Zotero is widely used, some writers prefer Highlights because it is specifically designed for Apple products and offers a more streamlined and consistent experience. Both tools embed information about the location of highlights and notes within the original document, making it easier to revisit and reference them.

One alternative tool worth mentioning is Glasp, a social highlighting tool for Safari and Chrome. It allows users to highlight text on web pages and offers additional features such as copying highlighted text and creating beautiful quote images for social media sharing. Glasp also recommends topics based on user preferences and allows users to follow others for curated quotes. While Glasp is currently in beta and free to use, it is unclear whether it will remain free in the future.

In addition to these tools, markdown text files are another format option for preserving context. Markdown files do not age out of usefulness, ensuring that the information contained within them remains accessible and relevant over time. When exporting notes from Zotero or Highlights to Obsidian, a note-taking app, the exported file includes links that enable easy access to the original text in which the highlight or note was embedded.

As a writer, I rely heavily on the notes I have saved in Obsidian to inform my writing process. Obsidian allows for the organization and retrieval of these notes, making it a valuable tool for managing and utilizing contextual information.

In conclusion, preserving context in digital writing is crucial for creating bi-directional linkages between products. By utilizing tools like Highlights, Zotero, Glasp, and Obsidian, writers can effectively highlight and annotate source materials, maintain the context of their notes, and generate valuable insights and ideas for their writing. Here are three actionable pieces of advice for writers looking to preserve context:

  • 1. Choose the right tool: Consider your specific needs and preferences when selecting digital tools for highlighting, annotating, and note-taking. Find tools that integrate well with your workflow and make it easy to preserve context.
  • 2. Embrace markdown: Markdown text files provide a versatile and future-proof format for storing and accessing your notes. Incorporate markdown into your writing process to ensure that your work remains useful and accessible over time.
  • 3. Explore social highlighting tools: Tools like Glasp offer unique features for highlighting and sharing text on web pages. Experiment with these tools to enhance your writing process and engage with the social aspect of highlighting.

By following these pieces of advice, writers can effectively preserve context in their digital writing, creating a more seamless and interconnected workflow that enhances their productivity and the longevity of their work.

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